“I’m always smiling and like to be happy,” Soto said in a phone interview before the Nationals’ 15-1 win against the Phillies in Philadelphia on Wednesday. “I like people to remember me like I’m happy, not mad, so I tell them, ‘Make smile.’”
The Nationals’ bobblehead designer took Soto’s feedback to heart and tweaked the final version to show off the outfielder’s pearly whites.
“I’m very happy with that,” Soto said of the giveaway, the first of seven bobbleheads on the Nationals’ 2019 promotional calendar. “I always see a couple players have bobbleheads, and I think one time I’m going to get mine. I’m going to keep some of those and give the most I can to my family. They love it, too."
In another first for the Nationals, the outside of the box containing Soto’s bobblehead will include a special panel. Fans, using the augmented reality feature of the MLB Ballpark app, can point the camera on their phones toward the panel to launch a video.
Soto, who burst on the scene last year with 22 home runs and plenty of highlight-worthy moments, has had reason to smile extra wide this week. On Tuesday, he helped the Nationals overcome a 6-1 deficit with a three-run home run in the 10th inning of an eventual 10-6 win over the Phillies.
Soto was equally excited when Nationals rookie Victor Robles tied Tuesday’s game with a solo home run in the ninth inning when Washington was down to its final strike. After Robles rounded the bases, Soto greeted his friend and fellow Dominican outfielder at the top step of the dugout with an elaborate, choreographed handshake.
“He kept fighting, and he hit the homer, so I feel amazing with that,” Soto said. “Since he get here, he told me he wanted me to do it with him, that handshake. Every time we’re excited to do it, mostly when it’s a moment like that. I get out and celebrate with him.”
Soto has unique handshakes with several of his teammates.
“I like to be happy with everybody, to be fun, because the thing is having fun,” he said. “Every time you go out, that’s the only thing — having fun and then everything comes through. I have different ones with Adam Eaton, Michael A. [Taylor], Trea [Turner], [Wilmer] Difo, Yan Gomes, [Kurt] Suzuki, all these guys.”
It’s probably not too early for the Nationals to start planning a dual bobblehead of Soto and Robles doing their familiar handshake for next season. In the meantime, the Potomac Nationals are scheduled to give out Soto “Childish Bambino” bobbleheads July 20. Soto, who played 15 games for Washington’s Class A affiliate during his meteoric rise to the big leagues last year, said he heard about the promotion but has yet to see a prototype of the figurine. If it’s true to form, Soto will be smiling.
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